Soya bean also referred to as “meat of the field” or “meat without bones” is an annual antioxidant-rich legume with high protein content.
It had been a popular food crop in Asian countries like Korea, China and Japan since ancient times but was introduced to the United States in the 19th century from where it has received deservedly unprecedented global attention.
The US initially adopted it as a forage crop until the 1920s when the Soil Conservation Service stimulated its increased cultivation in cotton plantations as a means of replenishing the fertility of soils depleted by cotton cropping.
Increased production triggered advances in soy processing technology, propelling soya into a major economic crop ranking only after corn and wheat.Today, the United States produces over a third of the world’s soya beans.
Soy is one of the food products that have bounced Brazil back to economic reckoning. Today, Brazil is one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of the commodity after the United States.
Over 80 per cent of the world’s soya bean crop is processed into meal and vegetable oil, and virtually all of that meal is used in the production of animal feed.
A negligible percentage of the soy meal is further processed into soy flours and proteins for food use.
Soya can be manipulated and flavoured to produce a meat-like texture to simulate meat products like chicken, sausage, beef, and so on which can be used as filling for many fast foods like sausage rolls, hamburgers and so on.
In bakery, Soy proteins increase water absorption and help improve shelf life through moisture retention.
Soy oil dominates world oilseed trade. 95 per cent of the oil is consumed as edible oil; while the balance serves as industrial raw materials in the production of paint, varnish, linoleum, and rubber fabrics, cosmetics including soaps, creams, and massage oils, etc. It also readily finds application in the production of biodiesel.
Of all the benefits of soya, it is most cherished for its nutrient value as a vegetarian alternative to animal proteins.
Health experts posit that children fed on soy milk suffer less from ear infections than those fed with cow milk because soy is less likely to cause allergies that cause inflammation of the Eustachian tubes in young children.
Also, as red meats, eggs and other animal products become more unpopular amongst middle agers and senior citizens, soya comes in as a low cholesterol replacement.
Soy distinguishes itself as a protein plant that contains all eight amino acids essential for human health.
It is therefore very useful in the production of food fortifiers and other products that enhance immunity.
Soya bean are one of the few plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids which have been found useful in the dietary reduction of risk as well treatment of malnutrition, heart disease and cancer.
Soybean was introduced into Nigeria in the early 1900s while export started in 1947. On the global scene, trade in soya beans holds a lucrative promise as the market is currently practically dominated by a few countries, leaving room for new entrants like Nigeria; if we are willing to utilise our comparative advantage in this area.
2007 figures placed Nigeria as the 11th largest producer of soya, 35th of cattle, and 36th in pork production and 41st in poultry.
Obviously, the nation has advantage in soy production that can be scaled up to a competitive level to immensely benefit the economy.
The Federal Institute of Industrial Technology,Oshodi,which pioneered the processing and utilisation of soya beans into various food products, says the processing technologies are available for adoption by interested investors.
The Director-General of the Institute, Dr. Gloria Elemo, says, “FIIRO is investigating the use of soybeans in the formulation of a nutrient rich food beverage suitable for people living with HIV/AIDS.
This is intended to help manage the course of the disease in affected people.”
The production of concentrates and isolates, which is in high demand in contemporary industry, though capital intensive, is direly needed to catapult the nation into the big time.
According to Dr. Augustine Okoruwa during Soy Summit 2010, the nation should take advantage of the versatility that soya offers as an affordable, nutritious food and food supplement as well as feed meal with the potential to spawn ample business opportunities both in its production and processing value chain.
This would usher economic empowerment to both rural and urban poor as well as spur establishment of both small and medium scale industries; thereby enhancing the quality of life in the nation through enhanced nutrition and wealth creation.
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